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CNYCA's six-year statistical survey monitoring New York City's child welfare system

March 2019

Watching the Numbers, our rolling six-year statistical survey of key indicators on New York City’s child welfare system, has some new and more up-to-date features in this edition. We have adjusted some indicators to better align with changes in how the City’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) tracks data, and added more detail on disparities in the system by age, race, and geography.

The surge in child protective activity that we noted in last year’s Watching the Numbers largely continued into FY2018, with ongoing increases in reports of abuse and neglect, emergency removals, and Family Court filings. In Calendar Year 2017, foster care admissions increased for the first time in a decade, but dropped back down in 2018. Child protective caseloads remained higher than in previous years, and the number of families receiving preventive services remained lower. However, foster care discharges returned to pre-FY2017 levels, and fewer children returned to foster care after discharge than at any time in the previous six years.

Some other key trends in the FY2018 data include:

  • The total number of children in foster care continued to decrease in FY2018.

  • This year, for the first time, we report the total number of emergency removals—instances in which ACS removes a child from home without a court order. These, too, have increased dramatically during the past two fiscal years. While the bulk of these removals are approved by a judge at the child’s first court hearing, some are not; these include instances where a child returns home, but also where an out-of-home placement is approved at a subsequent court date.

  • ACS-contracted preventive services are voluntary and open to all families, but the percentage of families referred to such services by ACS continued to grow. ACS reports few indicators to measure the effectiveness of preventive service programs. However, data do indicate that the percentage of children entering foster care who had received preventive services in the previous year decreased in FY2018.

  • The number of children aging out of foster care continued to shrink, reaching its lowest point in the past six years.  This is measured by the number of children discharged to “another planned permanent living arrangement” (APPLA), which includes youth ages 18–20 discharged to themselves or who reach age 21 in foster care.

  • The percentage of children who returned to foster care within two years of discharge, an important measure of how permanent a permanency placement really is, decreased significantly in FY2018.

  • Child welfare investigations and foster care placements are heavily concentrated in the lowest-income and most predominately Black and Latino neighborhoods.

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